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Sunday, May 23, 2010


This Sunday is going to be a pretty important day. Yes, it's the series finale of Lost. But in the religious world, it's also known as Pentecost Sunday, and for the Rainbow Sash Movement, that's a day dedicated to challenging the institutional Catholic Church's opposition to gay rights.

Their plan? Well, much like their name asserts, scores of LGBT people of faith around the globe will show up to their local Catholic cathedral, dawn a rainbow sash during the liturgy, and try to spark dialogue with both people in the pews, and local clergy, including bishops. Some may even try to take Communion, which in the past has worked out well (Los Angeles, Detroit), and at other times has worked out not so well (Minneapolis/St. Paul).

As the Rainbow Sash Movement notes, the goal is not to protest church services, but to show religious leaders that LGBT people exist within their parishes, and won't stand to be made invisible any longer.

"We can no longer bury our heads and remain silent," the Rainbow Sash Movement writes, "nor can we promote the ideal that somehow our own spiritual comfort is more important than civil rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community."

The thinking goes that if people of faith know we're in their midst, it's a whole lot harder to use theology as a wedge to divide us. Of course, tell that to a few Catholic bishops, particularly the head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Francis George. The good Cardinal doesn't really appreciate the Rainbow Sash Movement, or their work to get people talking about sexual orientation and religion.

Five years ago, Cardinal George instructed priests in his Archdiocese (Chicago) to refuse Communion to wearers of the Rainbow Sash.

"The policy of the U.S. Conference of Bishops is to not give Communion to those wearing the Rainbow Sash," Cardinal George wrote at the time. Word has it that he still stands by those words, too, which is why he'll be a prime target of the Rainbow Sash Movement this coming Sunday, during his 11:00am mass at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. 

Earlier this year, a group of activists in the Netherlands protested a local Catholic Church, after it denied a prominent gay man in the community Communion. Activists responded in droves, with hundreds of people showing up in pink wigs and clothes during a church service, and walking out during the Communion service.

The man originally denied Communion? According to the BBC, he wanted to deliver a message to Catholic clergy: if you're going to deny Communion to one group of people deemed "sinners," you better be ready to deny Communion to everyone.

Perhaps that's the moral of the story, and the moral behind the Rainbow Sash Movement's action this coming Sunday. Sash it up folks; this Church is a body that needs as much dialogue as possible on the subject of LGBT rights.


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